Saturday, December 31, 2011

Children forced by Poverty to Work

Of the greatest tragedies of poverty is that inflicted upon children.  Children who grow up in poverty are often not only lack development such as education, but can be forced into the workforce at a much earlier age than they should be.  This tends to perpetrate the cycle of poverty - family is poor, so children must work instead of grow, which leads them to be unable to pull themselves and their family out of poverty, so their children must work...etc

This is the problem facing children in Brazil...

"The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper says Wednesday that its analysis of preliminary 2010 census figures compiled by Brazil’s government statistics agency shows that more than 1 million children between the ages of 10 and 14 were working last year..."

Friday, December 30, 2011

Next Mexican President Faces Challenge

The next president of Mexico is going to face a tremendous challenge when it comes to fighting poverty...

"A battle over how to tackle poverty, which is blamed for stunting Mexico's economic development and fueling the rise of violent drug gangs, is already raging between candidates competing to succeed Calderon in a July presidential election..."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Achieving Poverty Reduction Through Fast Growth Enterprises

Last month, a group of experts came together at the International Finance Corporation to discuss the potential for small and media fast growth companies to achieve reduction in poverty and to reach the development goals.  The idea is that these are the type of companies who present the most potential for rapid job growth.

"Thirty years of research shows that a small percentage of SMEs create the vast majority of net new jobs and GDP growth in the U.S. and Europe, but how does this translate into opportunities in emerging markets?"

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Voices of Poverty

This article is an introduction to the project called Voices of Poverty.  One of the ways we can help fight poverty is to gain an understanding how it feels to be suffering from it..

"Voices of Poverty was conceived, in conversation with the Open Society Foundations, as a way to tell the stories, in their own voices, of impoverished men, women, and children around America. My aim was to put together an audio archive containing the voices, and stories of America’s invisible poor..."

Monday, December 26, 2011

Tracking our Progress toward the MDGs

The Millennium Development Goals were established by the UN in 2000 to set specific goals to deal with health, hunger, education, equality, and sustainability by the 2015 deadline.  As we are approaching that deadline, it is good to look and see how we are doing...

"In 2000, the United Nations member states declared, "We will spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanizing conditions of extreme poverty, to which more than a billion of them are currently subjected."  To that end, they agreed to the Millennium Development Goals - a set of eight goals and 21 targets dealing with health, education, hunger, gender equality and environmental sustainability..."

Sunday, December 25, 2011

New US Poverty Figures Misinterpreted

It appears that the new poverty figures released by the US Census Bureau were not interpreted correctly by many journalists.  The declaration of 50% of US in poverty may be a bit exaggerated.

"Recently, the U.S Census Bureau released a report that creates a new designation of “low income” in order to “better reflect the distribution of poverty in the US.”  The Associated Press ran with a headline, “Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income ,” and scores of other media outlets followed suit...But analysts at the U.S. Census Bureau district office in Los Angeles are reporting today that perhaps journalists misunderstood. and over 300 online news reports simply got the story wrong..."

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In Andrha Pradesh - Almost all In Poverty

In Andrha Pradesh - a state on the coast in SE India - 95% of the population lives below the poverty line...

"The figures, which came up for discussion during the two-day collectors' conference held by Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy in Hyderabad on December 14 and 15, clearly indicate that almost 95 per cent of the state population lives below the poverty line..."

Friday, December 23, 2011

UN Looking to Social Media to Fight Poverty

The UN has brought in social media gurus to help find ways that social media channels can be used to help fight poverty.  The incredible growth of mobile communications along with the vast amount of people utilizing services like Facebook (the article points out that 157.d million Americans use Facebook), provides a vast potential for creating action with a large amount of people...

"Around 300 UN Development Program communications officers from about 80 countries, as well as students and NYC tech professionals, filled an expansive UN conference room for the conference “Social Media: An Outside the UN Perspective.” Here are the major points from their presentation..."

UN Development Program Reveals Funding to Fight Poverty

The United Nations rural poverty agency announced their aims to raise $1.5 billion to support their efforts to bolster living conditions of the rural poor across the developing world.

"With almost two billion rural people worldwide depending for their livelihoods on an estimated 500 million smallholder farms in developing countries, the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) aims to fill a crucial niche, focusing its efforts in the areas of food and income security..."

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Russia - 'Caucasian Emirate' War Most Deadly to the Poor

In the Republic of Dagestan in southern Russia, the war for 'Caucasian Emirate' has many casualties, but the most vulnerable are those in poverty and ignorant of their rights.  This article talks about a human rights group that works to aid women who are caught in the crossfire.

"The Caucasian republic of Dagestan in southern Russia is one of the most volatile areas in the country. Groups of militants operating in this part of the Caucasus have strong links with Al-Qaeda, and look to draw people in while they are young.  Anti-terror raids are constantly carried out in an attempt to eradicate the problem. Although militants usually target police and government officials, terrorism has so often ruined the lives of many innocent families across the region..."

US Bishops Campaign for Poverty

US Bishops have begun a campaign in the hopes of drawing attention to domestic poverty, with a new media effort including new website, social media presence, and daily events.

"Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento, who leads the bishops’ efforts to fight poverty through the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, explained that the culture of life must start with a love “that binds us to the hopes and joys, the struggles and the sorrows” of the poor and afflicted in society."

Monday, November 21, 2011

The New Supplemental Poverty Measure

Howdy Poverty News Blog readers!  Joseph here - sorry for the lag in updates.  Kale is out of the game for awhile with the family, and in juggling workloads, I've let the updates here slide a little bit.  So I'm working on fixing that, and also am being thankful for Ed Dolan, who kindly commented on the post regarding the new Census information.

Ed Dolan has a blog over at the EconoMonitor, and with a two part post he talked about the Census Bureau's new Supplementary Poverty Measure:

"Overall, the SPM does not give us all that many more poor people—16 percent of the population in 2010, compared with 15.2 for the old measure. The surprises come in how that poverty is distributed among the population..."

"The most important contribution of the SPM is to show that key federal antipoverty programs that official data omit play a big role in the lives of people living at or near the poverty level..."

Big thanks to Ed Dolan for the heads up and the well written articles.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bill Gates on Aid During Economic Crisis

Last week, Bill Gates addressed the G20 Summit in France to discuss the subject of Aid - specifically about sustaining aid during severe economic crisis.  He pressed the importance of equality while acknowledging the current economic difficulties in Europe.

"Gates acknowledged the current economic crisis in Europe, but raised awareness of the importance of equality – that every human life in the world is worth the same, everyone deserves access to healthcare and every life is worth saving – and that a price can’t be put on humanity..."

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Guatemala - President-Elect Otto Perez Molina Inherits Poverty and Crime

This week saw the election of a new president to Guatemala - General Otto Perez Molina.  The election campaign was fraught with violence and electoral law violations.  Despite all that, and the road ahead, General Otto Perez Molina may by the most well equipped man to handle Guatemala's poverty and crime issues.

"The president-elect does in fact confront a difficult situation (El Nuevo HeraldTelesurNYT). Over 50 percent of the population lives in poverty...On the other hand, President-elect Pérez Molina probably has more going for him than President Alvaro Colom did upon taking office..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Concentrated Poverty - US

Another book is making it's anniversary next year, this one to be the 25th for the book The Truly Disadvantaged, by William Julius Wilson in which he "described how racially isolated inner-city neighborhoods with extremely high levels of poverty perpetuated mutually reinforcing cycles of joblessness, crime, broken families, and dysfunctional schools."  This article - with respect to Wilson's works - talks about a report that was released last week on concentrated poverty.

"The most important finding is that the remarkable progress made against concentrated poverty in the prosperous 1990s was squandered in the past decade..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Book set to Rethink Fight Against Poverty Wins Book of the Year

Almost fifty years ago The Other America, written by Michael Harrington, set to change how American Society viewed it's poor.  That book was one of the most influential sources in sparking the war on poverty.  Today, we see books and people coming out trying to rethink what poverty means and how we can finally solve it.  These types of awards makes me think that we are on the verge of a new War on Poverty - perhaps this time we will win.

"Addressing topics from health to education, the authors build a shrewd yet sympathetic portrait of a problem as complex as those individuals who make up the all-too-often stereotyped poor..."

Monday, November 07, 2011

US to Define New Poverty Formula

The formula being used to calculate the poverty line in the US is about to be updated.  Aside from the issues of reducing people to a series of equations, I'm skeptical - especially after watching India's issues with this - that the redefinition of 'the poverty line' will do good.  In fact I could see it going either way.

"Until this month, the poverty line has been calculated the same way for half a century. It was developed in 1964 as part of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Ever since, a debate has ensued about how to determine who’s truly poor..."

Monday, October 31, 2011

Comic Book on Poverty wins Prize

One of the problems addressing the social issues surrounding poverty - for those not affected by it directly - is that one is usually not subjected to the concept of what poverty means until around the age of college.  Then any number of influences can expose one to the idea of poverty but it tends to still be an external 'issue' to be addressed.

I imagine that in order to affect a change in how society views the concept of poverty, its going to need to be something that is learned at a much younger age - an idea folded into the growth of the youth in society so that they can garner an appropriate relationship.

Ideas like the Sesame Street poverty character and this new Comic Book by the UN are signs that the foundations of society are making a shift in understanding our relationship with poverty.

"The book, primarily aimed at children between the ages of eight and 14...provides an interactive way to help young people understand, familiarize and reflect about the MDGs as well as invites them to take action through several activities provided in an adjoining educational guide."

Friday, October 28, 2011

British aid review could shortchange Burundi

A couple of years ago the British government decided to begin a review of international aid expenditures. The review was said to determine what countries had grown to the point where they didn't need as much aid. The review also was set to find what investments produced the greatest results.

There has been great concern throughout the process that some deserving countries would see a decrease in aid. Critics also worried that decisions would be made with only British national interests in mind.

One country in Africa will soon see a closure of services from Brittan's international aid agency. That is the country of Burundi who has the smallest gross domestic product in the world. Parliament is urging the review to reconsider.

From the Guardian, writer Marc Tran reviews the details.

As part of the review announced in March, DfID decided to reduce the number of bilateral aid programmes from 43 to 27. Burundi was dropped, even though DfID said it had "a compelling case for aid". In 2005, the country emerged from a 12-year civil war, fought on ethnic lines, that killed 300,000 people. The conflict left the country devastated, with the lowest recorded GDP per capita in the world, at $150 in 2008. Burundi ranks 166th of 169 countries in the UN's human development index. With 81% of the population living below the poverty line, it is unlikely to meet most millennium development goal targets, not least those on poverty, maternal and under-five mortality, and deforestation. Recent attacks, including the massacre of 36 people at a bar near the capital, Bujumbura, have fuelled fears of a return to civil war.

DfID had doubts about bilateral aid to Burundi in 2009, when a director said the programme was "structurally inefficient, with a small spend, overly-wide scope, and a staff-to-spend ratio which does not reflect economies of scale". DfID said in its bilateral aid review of Burundi that a "large scale-up would have been required to show a significant impact and therefore demonstrate value for money. Achieving this in the short term would have been difficult given capacity constraints in country".

Although its bilateral programme will close next year, DfID said it would continue to support Burundi's integration into the east African community. This will be done through TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), an initiative created by DfID with joint funding from Belgium, Denmark and Sweden. The scheme aims to reduce transport times and costs, eliminate trade barriers, and integrate small markets.

However, a House of Commons International Development Committee report on Burundi took issue with DfID on all three points. Noting that the UK had bilateral programmes with all the countries in the eastern Africa and great lakes region – Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan – MPs said a decision to discontinue bilateral aid to just one of the seven not only sends the wrong signals to that country, but also removes DfID's expertise where it is valued at a critical time.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Video: Kenya's growing population

From Al Jazeera, a the world reaches 7 billion people, a look at how Kenya tries to deal with their exploding population.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

African Farmers adapting to climate change

There is growing evidence that farmers in Africa are already adapting to climate change. They are beginning to change their farming methods on their own in order to keep harvests plentiful.

A development research conference in France touched upon that subject last week. Writer Christophe Assogba from Science relays what was said by one expert at the conference.

"Social adaptation to climate change has also been found in animals," said Abdoulaye Gouro, president of the scientific committee of the research network RIPIECSA (Interdisciplinary and Participatory Research on Interactions between Climate, Ecosystems and Society in West Africa).

He was speaking at a workshop last week (18–21 October) organised by France's Institute for Development Research (IRD) to obtain feedback on current RIPIESCA projects.

"Farmers are not inactive in the face of climate change. They are sowing second crops, and growing cassava, yams and so on in the lowlands. They have been able to increase their acreage in some areas because of the shifting seasons," Euloge Agbossou, head of the hydrology laboratory at the University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin,told the workshop.

"People are not waiting for engineers, scientists and researchers in order to adapt to climate change. They are aware of the phenomenon, they feel it around them and they have adapted to it," he said.

"Now it is up to us to improve on their methods, and see whether their approaches to adaptation are consistent with what science indicates."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

In Mexico, human trafficking is often operated by those in power

Human trafficking is often associated with organized crime or gangs operating the smuggling. In Mexico, the perpetrators of human trafficking are sometimes those in positions of power within the government.

One reporter exposed some of this abuse of power and now receives death threats every day because of it. Lydia Cacho Ribeiro recently spoke in New York about her investigations. Inter Press Service writer Melanie Haider attended the event.

She has investigated gender violence and sex trafficking and published numerous stories and books on the subject. Her 2005 book "The Demons of Eden" exposed an international child pornography and sex trafficking ring in Cancún which involved senators and politicians.

She was thrown in jail and tortured for publishing that book. When she finally came out and started talking, the government tried to label her a terrorist, but without success. She traveled for six years to investigate the world of international sex trafficking of women, resulting in her latest book "The Slaves of Power" in 2010.

Together with non-governmental organisations and a grassroots activist network, Cacho started a prevention campaign called "No estoy en venta" - "I am not for sale" - against sex trafficking that includes a video to give young people tools they need to protect themselves. The video explains anti-trafficking laws, the tactics traffickers use to lure their victims, and other aspects of the issue.

"It is getting away from discourse of fear and moral panic and all this (crap) and going back to the discourse of 'you have the power of the information, use it for your own good and how to protect yourself and other kids in school'," she stressed.

But her fight has not come without a price. Cacho told IPS that she has a lengthy checklist of safety strategies she must adhere to in her daily life because of the threats she receives, such as using a different name to make hotel reservations when she travels and constantly switching phone cards.

"I guess right now in Mexico my biggest challenge is to stay alive," she said.

Friday, October 21, 2011

New World Bank lending plan could avoid environmental concerns

The World Bank has a new plan set in place on how they are going to lend money out to poorer countries. Many environmental NGOs are criticizing the new plan because it does not take into account how the loans will effect the planet.

The World Bank wants to use the results a project achieve as the biggest determining factor on if the money is lent out. The environmentalists say that this could include projects that could harm the natural resources.

From the Guardian, writer John Vidal explains the controversy further.

The proposal, called A New Instrument to Advance Development Effectiveness: Programme-for-Results Lending (P4R), would lend money according to results achieved by projects. The proposal was published in February, and phase II consultations ended recently. Board approval is expected by the end of the year. Some of the NGOs that keep an eye on the bank's activities – International Rivers, Friends of the Earth US and Bank Information Centre – say the clear intention is to allow countries to sidestep dozens of tough, and expensive, social and environmental safeguards which recipients of World Bank loans must normally meet.

According to the proposals, the new instrument would eliminate or greatly dilute 25 existing safeguards and policies. They include those that apply to forced resettlement, natural habitats, physical and cultural resources, indigenous peoples, forests, safety of dams, natural habitats, and environmental action plans. Most of these policies have taken years of pressure by NGOs to secure.

The bank, which lends more than $50bn a year, is one of the world's largest providers of loans for mega-projects, many of which are particularly damaging to local people, the environment and the climate. If countries wanting to build giant dams, roads, power and water projects are to be largely freed from acting in a socially responsible way, the NGOs fear bank lending could lead to more forced evictions and human rights abuses.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

From Concern Worldwide: Paving the Way for Behavior Change in Tahoua, Niger

Next up in our series of Posts from Concern Worldwide is a look at some of the education services they provide in Niger. The program concentrates on improving maternal and child health by education on health and basic care for babies. Concern's Health Adviser Jenn Weiss traveled to Niger last summer to participate in the program.

This summer, I traveled from the Concern US office in New York City to Tahoua, Niger, leaving the heat of the city behind and arriving to much hotter weather (130 degrees!) on the dusty and barren edge of the Sahel. In the Tahoua region, which is about 400 kilometers north of Niamey, Niger’s capital, Concern is in the second year of its child survival programs.

Over the last decade, these programs, funded by USAID have been recognized for their impact, improving maternal and child health in Bangladesh, Rwanda, Burundi and Haiti through low-cost, community-based solutions.

Concern Niger’s Lahiya Yara (‘Life of a Child’) program aims to reach approximately 300,000 mothers and children under five years old with proven life-saving interventions to address diarrheal disease, malaria, pneumonia, and malnutrition by strengthening the health system, and by investing in intensive community-level activities to promote sustained behavior change.

Behavior change is one of the key strategies of Concern’s child survival programs. In simple terms, it means helping people make simple, yet life-saving actions part of their daily routines. It’s a sustainable, low-cost methodology to ensure that mothers are equipped with the knowledge and skills to improve their child’s health.

Some of the specific behaviors the Lahiya Yara Project is trying to promote include washing hands before eating, seeking care for a fever within 24 hours, and giving sick children as much or more food and liquid than usual. These may seem like obvious behaviors that we all practice in the U.S, but in Tahoua, a lack of basic necessities such as clean water, soap, and food, and long distances from the health center are barriers that mothers encounter on a daily basis.

The purpose of my trip to Tahoua was to work with the Lahiya Yara team to develop behavior change messages that will teach mothers how to realistically implement healthy behaviors. In order to make sure our messages would be relevant and accepted, we first asked mothers why they weren’t able to implement the healthy behaviors we recommend. Based on their answers, we designed tailor-made messages that take into account the formidable barriers mothers face.

For example, Concern will be encouraging mothers to provide their children with clean drinking water. One of the barriers women cited as a barrier to providing clean water to their children is that they don’t have the money to purchase a water filter. Concern will therefore focus on teaching women that boiling is also an effective way to treat water.

This is an easy, low-cost solution that could save the lives of many children by preventing diarrheal diseases. It may seem simple, almost intuitive to us, but we have been inculcated with these types of messages through health education in schools and the mass media, benefits not available to most Nigeriens.

Another behavior that Concern is promoting is exclusive breastfeeding until the child is six months old. When Concern asked why some mothers do not feed their babies with breast milk only, many replied that they believed it wasn’t possible or healthy for a mother to breastfeed when she is sick.

Sick mothers would instead feed their babies water or other liquids. Concern will therefore focus its messages on teaching women that most illnesses do not affect breastmilk and that it is healthy and safe to breastfeed even when the mother is sick.

Now that we have our behavior change messages finalized, we will begin to spread messages urging mothers to adapt these specific behaviors through a variety of channels: one-on-one counseling with Health Officers and Community Health Workers, radio messages, and even text messages. By reaching women through multiple channels with consistent, tailor-made messages; Concern’s behavior change activities will equip mothers with the knowledge and skills they need to improve the lives of their children.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

30% of Afghan children are working in child labor

30% of all children in Afghanistan are laboring in some fashion. Most are doing it just to help out their family, because their parents cannot earn money or not enough of it. There are as many as 50,000 to 60,00 child laborers in the city of Kabul alone.

From CNN, writer Kyle Almond filed this story that takes a look at another of the many problems in Afghanistan.

UNICEF has estimated that at least 30% of Afghan children age 5-14 are working in some form. But the issue goes far beyond Afghanistan's borders: UNICEF says that worldwide, approximately 158 million children between 5 and 14, one of every six children in that age group, are engaged in child labor.

"Most of these children are working to help their families meet their basic needs; not all of them," said Eric Edmonds, an associate professor of economics at Dartmouth College who advises many U.S. and international organizations on child labor issues. "I think it's easy to see instances of child abuse and child neglect and assume they're pervasive and they characterize all of those working children. But I think the reality of the situation is that ... most of those working children are doing so to help meet family needs."

While it varies by country, Edmonds said the world's most common child labor -- by far -- is agricultural. Forget about the manufacturing "sweatshops" that tend to dominate the headlines. Often, child labor is simply a kid working on the family farm.

"A lot of people say that's character-building, that's good stuff for them to be doing," Edmonds said. "But the risks associated with agriculture are actually a lot more extreme than a lot of shopkeeping-type tasks that you can imagine: children involved in toxic chemicals, children exposed to pests, children operating machinery that's too large for them, isn't designed to be done by them. All are serious risks that unfortunately a lot of children face."

Of course, the risk of physical harm is just one of many consequences that come with child labor, whether it's on a farm, in a factory or on a street.

The most serious might be the effect it has on society as a whole. If children are spending most of their time working, they'll never be able to attend school and get the education they need to find a better-paying job one day. Often, they will grow up illiterate and poor and pass on the same problems to their own children.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Veteran Ugandan activists disillusioned with direction of HIV response

From IRIN, a story about the fight against HIV in Uganda, some activists there say that they are losing ground against the disease.

Some of Uganda's most active campaigners in its 30-year fight against HIV are losing faith in the government's ability to effectively counter the epidemic as the country struggles to provide treatment and prevent more than 100,000 new infections every year.

Uganda won plaudits in the early days of the epidemic for the aggressive stance taken by President Yoweri Museveni; the country lowered its HIV prevalence from 18 percent in the early 1990s to about 6 percent in 2000. However, several setbacks - including corruption scandals, frequent treatment shortages and accusations of a misguided prevention programme - have undermined its progress.

"Uganda's HIV fight is like a stunted child who once upon a time crawled, stood up, took a few steps but was never able to run," said Milly Katana, a long-term activist and one of the inaugural board members of the Global Fund to fight HIV, Tuberculosis and Malaria. "And the way things are going, the child may go back to crawling."

More money, less passion

Katana, who discovered she was HIV-positive in 1995 and went public with her status soon after, says while the injection of millions of dollars saved lives through treatment, it also commercialized the industry, leaving it open to abuse by those not truly interested in defeating the epidemic.

"When we started we had a genuine passion for fighting HIV, but now people do it as a job, a way to earn a living, and are less interested in people living with HIV, in understanding what it will take to end the epidemic," she said.

Katana added that Museveni, who once faced HIV head-on and stood with the activists, appeared to have changed his stance, embracing prevention programmes that did not emphasize condom use and openly questioning evidence-backed prevention techniques such as medical male circumcision.

"I have lost the fire I once had for activism; we need to stop and think and look at what made us succeed in the early days," she said.

Lack of coordination

For Major Rubaramira Ruranga, executive director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda, the lack of proper coordination at the top of the HIV response is largely responsible for the disorganization visible in the rest of the sector.

"Who is responsible for HIV in the country? Is it the Uganda AIDS Commission? Is it the Ministry of Health? Is it the President's Office?" he asked. "We need to have a single body that is able to call people to order, to steer the response effectively; for instance, HIV is going up again in Uganda and we need to know why, but who can tell us?"

He also noted that while the country had strong policies to fight HIV, they rarely reached the implementation phase.

"The national strategic plan is full of good ideas, but where is the change? For instance, a lot has been said about mainstreaming HIV, but it has not gone beyond the rhetoric," Ruranga said. "We need to set benchmarks and have mechanisms that work towards achieving them."

He further noted that HIV decision-making had happened at a high level, leaving out grassroots communities and therefore often missing out on their needs.

"HIV became an office business with lots of workshops, largely in the capital," Ruranga said. "As a result, the needs of the most important people - young people in particular - have been mishandled, and while there is a lot of talk about HIV, there has been little effort to ensure the population understands important issues, such as HIV discordance.

"There has also been a failure to promote a healthy understanding of ARVs [antiretrovirals]. People think it's a panacea and have become complacent about their behaviour," he added. "[They] don't realize that along with ARVs come a number of other complex conditions - cardiovascular disease, lipodystrophy [a condition involving the redistribution of body fat] and so on, some of which can be debilitating."


Rev Gideon Byamugisha has been living with HIV since 1992, and was one of the first religious leaders to publicly announce his status; he is a founder member of the International Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected by HIV/AIDS, which, since its formation in 2006, has attracted more than 4,000 members from 48 countries.

Byamugisha says Uganda has failed to keep up with the new methods of handling the epidemic.

"We are still talking about ABC [Abstinence, Be faithful and correct and consistent Condom use], which focuses on sex - but what about the 21 percent of new infections that occur through mother-to-child transmission?

"’Be faithful’ clearly has not worked, since marriage is where most new infections are occurring - the issue should not be faithfulness, but sex with someone whose HIV status you are aware of," he added. "Medical male circumcision is not moving as fast as it should and we have yet to make any moves on treatment as prevention.... we need to take note of the new dynamics and adopt them."

The country needed to shake off the complacency that had set in following the early successes, he said.

"Uganda is a prisoner of its own success - we are like a heavyweight boxing champ who gets the belt and then relaxes," he said.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Anti-terrorism law leads to fear of prosecution for aid groups

Another report released today shows some of the dangerous effects that anti-terrorism laws have for the people that have to live in areas under terrorist control. The US Law puts stiff penalties and jail time to any aid group found assisting terrorist organizations. That has forced many NGOs to stop giving aid to the people in areas controlled by the terrorists.

From the Guardian, writer Mark Tran takes a look at the report from the Overseas Development Institute.

The ODI also found that the administrative burden imposed by counter-terrorism legislation has affected the timeliness and efficiency of humanitarian aid, and can even deter relief groups operating in high-risk areas. In the case of Somalia, where famine has been declared in six regions this year, ODI said funding had declined by half betwen 2008 and 2011, mainly as a result of a drop in American contributions following legislation in the US.

In Gaza, where Hamas has been designated a terrorist group by the US and the EU, a number of NGOs have been forced to limit or suspend their operations. The situation for NGOs has been complicated by a requirement from the interior ministry in Gaza for an NGO registration fee. It is unclear whether payment of the fee could be seen as providing "material support" to Hamas as it would benefit from this revenue.

In Somalia, where al-Shabaab militants are in control in famine-struck regions, Ofac has said that non-USAid partners can work without a licence and that "incidental benefits" to al-Shabaab are not its focus. But aid groups say the statement has created confusion as it is neither a firm guarantee that Ofac will not take action in the future, nor does it bar prosecution under US criminal law.

"Rigid and over-zealous application of counter-terrorism laws to humanitarian action in conflict not only limits its reach … but undermines the independence and neutrality of humanitarian organisations in general," said ODI, "and could become an additional factor in the unravelling of the legitimacy and acceptance of humanitarian response in many of the world's worst humanitarian crises."

Friday, October 14, 2011

From The Culture Zone

Greetings Poverty News Blog Readers! This post has been awhile coming, we simply have been swamped with organizational activities and I haven’t had the opportunity to write a welcoming post to y’all.
As you may have noticed, a few weeks ago Kale announced his need to bow out of the blog as he needs the time for his family. We are fortunate enough to be in a position where we could take up the reins, and see to it that his good work can continue. In the meantime, Kale will still be around and I believe he has even found new energy to continue alongside us.
My name is Joseph - I am the webmaster at The Culture Zone, which is the personal effort of my good friend Michael Harrington. Lately, we have been contemplating what it means to understand why one takes action - specifically against Poverty. So in order to explain The Culture Zone, I would like to talk about what we believe, why we do what we do, and what that means.

  • The idea of children growing up in poverty outrages us.
  • The idea of people being unable to feed themselves, or provide shelter for themselves outrages us.
  • We ask ourselves, “In a World filled with Injustice and Pain, where does my Own comfort fit in?”
  • We ask ourselves, “What exactly is ‘enough?’”
  • We believe that the gap between the rich and the poor has only served to hide The Truth of Reality.
  • We believe that Poverty is not the problem. I am the problem.
  • We challenge the perceived notion of what is Real in today’s society.
  • We live our lives under the concept of treating others as we would be treated.
  • We treat all human beings as equals.
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Resource curse precedes oil production in Uganda

Oil well digging has begun in Uganda. What lies underneath the land could bring riches to those above. Already there are allegations of bribes to senior ministers of the government. Before a single barrel of oil is produced the term "Resource Curse" is being used to describe Uganda, just as it is in Niger Delta.

From IRIN, this analysis takes a look at curse that could come with oil drilling in Uganda.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi has been accused of receiving funds to lobby for oil production rights on behalf of the Italian oil firm ENI, which eventually lost its bid for exploration rights to British firm Tullow Oil. Along with Mbabazi, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa and Internal Affairs Minister Hilary Onek are both accused of taking bribes from Tullow Oil worth over US$23 million and $8 million respectively.

The ministers and Tullow Oil deny all the allegations, but MPs on 11 October demanded the ministers' resignations and formed an ad hoc parliamentary committee to investigate them; Kutesa has now stepped aside from his ministerial position to allow investigations into separate charges of abuse of office and causing financial loss relating to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Uganda in 2007.

Oil exploration began in Uganda’s northwestern Lake Albert basin nearly a decade ago; the Energy Ministry estimates the country has over two billion barrels of oil; Tullow operates three oil blocks in the region, and had sold off part of its stake to Total and China's CNOOC. However, following the allegations of bribery, parliament has halted the sale.

The revelations of possible large-scale graft have caused outrage in the population. The discovery of oil had given hope to a country that despite more than 25 years of relative stability, remains poor. The UN Development Programme reports that 51 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

“We were so excited when we heard about oil, we knew we would at least get roads, better electricity supply and better hospitals but now it seems that, as usual, all the money is going into the pockets of a few,” said Asuman Kasule, a taxi driver in the capital, Kampala.

No regulatory framework

Analysts say that while the allegations of corruption are troubling and must be addressed, Uganda has bigger problems when it comes to its nascent oil industry. Oil production is due to begin as early as 2013, but the country has not put in place a regulatory framework for the oil industry; the existing legislation on oil and gas exploration was passed in 1993, and analysts say it is not sufficient to deal with the current dynamics.

In addition, the country has not put in place measures to ensure transparency, inclusion of local communities, revenue management and the mitigation of environmental damage. A 2008 National Oil and Gas Policy was intended as a road map for the handling and use of the oil, but critics say many of its recommendations have not been followed.

"As of today, Uganda does not have an oil revenue management framework," Richard Businge, senior manager at International Alert, a peace and conflict NGO, told IRIN. "Government’s argument is that the country has sufficient income and tax laws, which is not necessarily the case because the oil industry is a unique one, which requires a more specific revenue management law. The oil development process has been shrouded in secrecy, breeding confusion and suspicion."


Parliamentarians say oil production sharing agreements dating as far back as 2001 were only shared with them in September 2011. Attorney-General Peter Nyombi Thembo has said the agreements contain confidentiality clauses that prevent the government and parliament from disclosing their contents to third parties.

During a heated debate on 11 October, parliament passed a resolution banning confidentiality clauses in any future oil contracts with foreign companies.

"A lot has gone on in the oil industry without the knowledge of the Ugandan public, and a lot is still going on,” Tony Otoa, a researcher with Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE), a public policy think-tank, told IRIN. "This sort of secrecy - which covered up patronage, corruption - is what preceded the problems Nigeria had in the early stages of its industry."

Otoa said it would be crucial for Uganda to join international mechanisms for transparency in the oil and gas sector such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international scheme that attempts to set a global standards for transparency in oil, gas and mining. Implementation of EITI would mean regular, accessible publication of all payments by oil companies to governments and all revenues received by governments from oil companies. The National Oil and Gas Policy recommends that Uganda participate in EITI.

Another such mechanism is Publish What You Pay (PWYP), an international network of civil society organizations that call for oil, gas and mining revenues to form the basis for development and improve the lives of ordinary citizens in resource-rich countries.

"The oil industry is still young, but payments in the millions of dollars have already been made to the government in signing bonuses, licensing fees and so on, but the government has so far been unwilling to share the amounts that have been paid nor the way the money has been spent," said Winfred Ngabiirwe, of PWYP's Uganda chapter. "There has been some flip-flopping by the government on whether it will join EITI, but so far there has been no firm commitment."

Local communities

Ngabiirwe said transparency and open revenue management would be key to ensuring that the local populations in the oil producing areas were able to benefit from the proceeds of the production and lift themselves out of poverty. "As it is, the local populations are not really informed of their rights and we are often blocked by politicians from visiting these areas to enlighten them," she said.

In the areas where PWYP has been allowed to operate, they have set up grassroots chapters of the organization to allow communities to understand and communicate their needs and demand that the oil revenues be used for the development of their areas.

"It’s true that fishing and farming have been interrupted; some communities... have been asked to relocate while others... were notified to prepare to leave," said International Alert's Businge. "The compensation given to them is inadequate - this is determined by government - while those who have to put up with oil activity have to regulate their activities either on farm or on lake. Most of the corporate social responsibility work that companies are doing to kind of buy the `social ticket’ is on infrastructure development and not necessarily responsive to key pressing survival needs of the local communities."

According to a study by Uganda's Makerere University on managing oil expectations, local communities have "expressed hope that oil revenues will result in a better road and railway network, high quality education and health care, a regional technical and university infrastructure, and considerable employment opportunities". However, the study also found that local communities were not involved in the drafting of the National Oil and Gas Policy and were not informed of the oil companies' activities in their region.

And according to ACODE’s Otoa, while it is important for parliament to go after corrupt individuals, it is equally important that they stand up for the rights of local communities and urge environmental caution.

“Our parliamentarians are largely uninformed about the oil sector, so we regularly hold workshops to try and ensure that when the time comes for them to debate an oil bill, they are aware of the key issues that need to be taken into consideration,” he said. “Bodies like the National Environment Management Authority also need their capacity boosted, because they too are inexperienced in the type of environmental damage caused by the oil industry.”

Another important area, according to Henry Banyenzaki, minister for economic monitoring, would be ensuring that Ugandans are trained and employed in various aspects of the oil industry, and that local businesses are geared towards supplying the oil industry.

“We are not moving as fast as we should in government because of bureaucracy, but we need to prepare the private sector as well so that they can get the maximum benefit from the industry,” he said.

Banyenzaki said the government would need to ensure that other key resources - including agriculture and tourism - did not suffer as a result of the focus on oil, a concept known as “Dutch disease”.

"Uganda’s oil wealth can be transformational for Uganda’s economy but this largely depends on how well it is managed... [but] in the absence of proper revenue management and critical forward thinking, the exploitation of oil does not necessarily translate into sustainable socio-economic transformation," said Businge. "

Thursday, October 13, 2011

450,000 people yet to return to the Ivory Coast

It happens over and over again in an armed conflict, the people are quick to leave but slow to return. The displaced people often go on living as refugees for years and years. They begin to grow dependent on aid groups because they can't establish their own livelihood in a different country.

OXFAM tells us that 450,000 people still remain refugees after the Ivory Coast conflict from earlier this year. With the story no longer in the international headlines, the aid groups are running out of food and water to provide for them.

From Reuters Alert Net, we read the latest assessment of the Ivory Coast refugees.

Although some half a million Ivorians have returned to their homes since the end of the conflict in April, 450,000 Ivorians remain displaced inside and outside the country -- the world's top cocoa grower -- according to a report by aid agencies Oxfam, the Danish Refugee Council and Care.

The International Rescue Committee said on Wednesday some of the displaced were sheltering in communities within Ivory Coast while others were in camps in neighbouring Liberia.

"Six months on, the majority of the 170,000 Ivorians who fled to Liberia are reluctant to go back due to persisting insecurity in parts of western Ivory Coast and concerns about targeted attacks by ethnic or political rivals. They remain in precarious conditions in camps and communities," the IRC said in a statement.

Ivory Coast's five-month post-election crisis ended when former president Laurent Gbagbo, who tried to cling on to power despite losing an election in November, was ousted by forces loyal to current President Alassane Ouattara.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Sudan's Blue Nile hospital struggles to treat shrapnel wounds

From IRIN, a story about the armed conflict that continues in Sudan between the Northern government and a opposition party.

Kurmuk hospital in Sudan’s southern crisis-hit Blue Nile State is struggling to cope with an influx of war wounded, according to hospital doctor Evan Atar.

So far he has treated 626 people for shrapnel injuries since clashes began last month between the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) opposition political party-turned-rebel group.

A man on the operating table cries out in pain, but Atar says the hospital has no more anaesthetics to give him.

Cotton, gauze and saline solution will run out this week if aid does not arrive, he says, adding that six months of supplies have been used up in the past six weeks.

“We are running short of everything - drugs, dressings.” He feared the hospital would have to buy salt, boil it, and use it to sterilize wounds.

"The problem is that there is no way we can get the drugs in here now because of the Antonovs bombing the area, making it very dangerous to fly supplies in from Kenya."

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir will not allow foreign aid agencies inside Blue Nile or the neighbouring state of South Kordofan, where the government has been fighting SPLM-N forces for months.

The only doctor in Kumruk

Atar is the only doctor in Kurmuk, which has the only hospital between state capital Damazin (under SAF control), and neighbouring Ethiopia.

Nurse Walid Solomon says 20-year-old soldier Satdam Anima is the seventh amputee victim the hospital has dealt with. He was hit by “the big bullet of the Antonov”. Atar, with Solomon’s assistance, sews up the stump near the left shoulder, and Satdam’s eyes roll in pain.

The lack of blood donors mean that the hospital’s 24 nurses donate blood to keep patients alive.

The aerial bombardment in and around Kurmuk is evident and audible.

“In the first war, there was peace in the villages; now they [the Antonovs] bomb even the villages - that’s the problem; and the increasing accuracy of the bombing is leading to rising patient numbers as the weeks go by," Atar said.

The hospital has only one ambulance and most vehicles are useless on the muddy roads. Many of the injured arrive at the hospital by donkey, often too late.

In a ward bed, Altom Osman, 65, is recovering from a deep shrapnel wound to his back and another on his arm when a bomb from an Antonov landed on his mud-and-thatch hut in the village of Sali, north of Kurmuk.

“I was on my farm when the Antonov came. I couldn’t escape," Osman said. He was carrying sorghum flour to his wife.

He managed to flag down a passing soldiers’ vehicle and get to the hospital quickly, and despite his fragile appearance “and very huge wound”, Atar is confident he will make a full recovery.

Further north of Kurmuk in Maiyas, village chief Khidir Abusita pointed to a crater and shrapnel near two huts where six people were killed. He said one man, Sebit Ahmed Hussein, had reached the hospital in time to get treatment, but another, whose “leg was blown apart”, bled to death on the way.

No safe haven

The priority is to move patients from the hospital as quickly as possible, either back home or across the border to Ethiopia where other aid agencies can care for them.

“The fear that an Antonov might bomb [the hospital] is terrible”, Atar said, adding: “Most of the people who were injured are people who were running. The bomb usually explodes upwards in a conical form, so if you keep down you are fine."

Food would also become a problem, he noted. “First of all the war will continue and the second thing is, now, hunger will come and it is not going to spare anyone unless the people go and become refugees to be helped, but for the people left within, it is going to be a big problem.”

Artillery fire directed at rebels could be the last straw. “For now it is the Antonov bombing, but I don’t think I would be here if there is shelling… and no patients could be brought here,” Atar said.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Farmers in Afghanistan continue to grow opium to avoid poverty

A new report says that opium cultivation increased in Afghanistan by seven percent from the previous year. Farmers on the edge of poverty continue to grow the illicit crop because it is the easiest to make money with. Opium prices have doubled in the span of a year.

From The Washington Post World, we find more details on the report and why poverty is cited as a reason for the growth in opium cultivation.

Tuesday’s report also shows that opium cultivation is spreading to new parts of the country, a troubling trend as international troops are trying to stabilize Afghanistan so that they can hand over security responsibilities to the government.

Farmers cultivated 131,000 hectares of opium poppies in 2011, a 7 percent increase over the previous year, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime said in its periodic Afghan opium survey. Farmers said they turned to the illegal opium poppy because of “economic hardship and lucrative prices,” according to the report.

The jump came even though the Afghan government increased crop eradication by 65 percent and made significant seizures in recent months.

Fighting Poverty with Mobile Phones

This is really cool - the affects of mobile communications on the abilities of societies living in poverty is astounding.

Mobile Phone: Weapon Against Poverty

"The advent of the mobile society may have brought convenience and a cultural sea change to the U.S. and Europe, but in the poorest regions of the world, affordable mobile phone access has caused a quantum leap in services — like calling for medical help, sending a quick letter to loved ones or starting a savings account — that Americans and Europeans have taken for granted for generations, analysts say."

Monday, October 10, 2011

The World Food Prize 2011 winners

The World Food Prize Symposium takes place this week in Des Monies, Iowa. The annual event brings in policy makers and scientists from around the globe to discuss ways to improve the production of food to ensure that no one goes hungry. During the event the World Food Prize is also awarded to recognize people who have made outstanding contributions to improving food security.

From the Wallaces Farmer, we find out more about this year's prize winners.

The World Food Prize, awarded each year since 1994 and sponsored by the late Des Moines businessman and philanthropist John Ruan, recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world, thereby helping to boost global food security. This year, the prize will be awarded to John Agyekum Kufuor, the former president of Ghana, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president of Brazil, for their outstanding achievements in reducing hunger in their countries. The ceremony will take place during the Borlaug International Symposium, which is the official name. World Food Prize officials commonly refer to the symposium as the "Borlaug Dialogue."

Both of this year's World Food Prize recipients have made considerable contributions to their countries' ag sectors. Under former Ghanaian President Kufuor's tenure, both the share of people suffering from hunger and the share of people living on less than $1 dollar a day were halved. Economic reforms strengthened public investment in food and agriculture, which was a major factor behind the quadrupling of the country's gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003 and 2008. Because 60% of Ghana's population depends directly on agriculture, the sector is critical for the country's economic development.

In addition to the economic reforms, Ghana's Agricultural Extension Service helped alleviate hunger and poverty by educating farmers and ultimately doubling cocoa production between 2002 and 2005. And the country's School Feeding Program, which began in 2005, ensures that school children receive one nutritiously and locally produced meal every day. The program has transformed domestic agriculture by supporting irrigation, improving seeds and crop diversification, making tractors more affordable for farmers, and building feed roads, silos, and cold stores for horticultural crops.

In Brazil, among the major goals of former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva's presidency were alleviating poverty, improving educational opportunities for children, providing greater inclusion of the poor in society, and ensuring that "every Brazilian has food to eat three times a day." The government implemented policies and actions known as the "Zero Hunger Programs" to provide cash aid to poor families (guaranteeing a minimum income and enabling access to basic goods and services); to distribute food to poor families through community restaurants, assisted-living facilities, day-care centers, and related organizations; and to provide nutritious meals to children in public schools. As a result, the number of hungry people in Brazil was halved, and the share of Brazilians living in extreme poverty decreased from 12% in 2003 to 4.8% in 2009.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Video: North Korean children bear brunt of food crisis

From Al Jazeera, a video on the food crisis in North Korea.